not in our stars, but in ourselves
It sure was a great night for boring old white people.
I did not watch the ceremony, and based on what I’ve seen this morning about how long/insipid it was, I’m glad I stuck to The Thick of It, The Jinx, and Last Night Tonight (and yes, I was able to watch two episodes each of TTOI and Jinx as well as one episode of Last Night and STILL finish all of that before the Oscars were over). However, I have some thoughts and some Strong Opinions, as usual. Read at your own peril.
– I didn’t see Still Alice. I can’t say I’m all that interested in seeing Still Alice. But Julianne Moore is a great actress, and this is somehow her first win. Let her have it. I’m not always a fan of rewarding people for a mediocre film this year in order to make up for a legacy of great films…but this is okay. You go, Julianne. You go, and you enjoy your younger husband.
– I’m happy that Alejandro González Iñárritu won Best Director, if only to break up the mayonnaise fest that was the rest of the nominees. And how progressive of the Academy: last year, Best Director went to Alfonso Cuarón (for Gravity) and to Ang Lee (Life of Pi) the year before. See? The Academy isn’t racist! Two Mexicans and an Asian! And decades and decades and decades of white men. But look at that! Three years in a row! Wow!
– Thankfully, “Glory” won for Best Song from Selma, and the performance brought down the house. Common and John Legend’s speech was amazing as well. It is the one fair and just thing that happened last night.
– Good for Grand Budapest Hotel cleaning up the technical awards, if nothing else. The film has been criticized by a number of film fans I follow for being “shallow” – all style and no substance – and while I disagree pretty strongly, I’m glad it was awarded for its aesthetics, which were indeed impressive.
– Oh, the white tears being spilled over Best Picture. Get this: there’s a post on Slate today saying that last night was “an epochal travesty” that “we” haven’t seen for twenty years. Does crackerass Dan Kois mean it’s an epochal travesty that Selma didn’t win? LOLLERSKATES! Of course not! He thinks it’s a goddamn crime against humanity that Boyhood didn’t win. Here, let’s allow him to damn himself with his own words:
By nominating Boyhood, the academy gave itself the chance to recognize a movie that is not just good but revolutionary—a film that reconsiders, in surprising and rewarding ways, the medium’s relationship with time, with storytelling, and with its audience. It’s both a singular work—no one but Richard Linklater could have made it—and a universal one, reflecting the elemental formative experiences of nearly every viewer, even those who don’t, on the surface, have a lot in common with Mason or Samantha or Olivia or Mason Sr. It’s the crowning work of a crucial American filmmaker and a profound statement about the lives we live. But the academy gave Best Picture to a movie about an actor’s identity crisis—a movie about, in Mark Harris’ perfect turn of phrase, “someone who hopes to create something as good as Boyhood.”
I say this with love – no, wait, something else – in my heart: are you fuckin’ kidding me? Bruh. What is universal about a white boy’s coming-of-age story? I didn’t relate to it. I didn’t find it moving. It was fine, whatever, don’t get me wrong – but universal? Nah, son. This brings me to a crucial point: white men ALWAYS assume that their stories are “universal,” that anyone who can’t at least understand their experiences is just wrong somehow. That’s dangerous! That’s awful! Surely we’re all grown-up enough to examine the way the white patriarchy works to keep us all oppressed, and to ask for better? I hope? Sure, tell your story about yourself as a white boy growing up, but PLEASE let’s also make room for other people to tell their stories. If you expect me to believe that the only stories worth telling and worth rewarding are those by and about white dudes, you are off your fucking face. And back to the movie itself: yeah, it’s impressive that Linklater decided to shoot a movie over the course of twelve years. It’s just not all that interesting. And it’s not the best picture of 2014, or of any year.
– Boyhood‘s only major win (only win? I forget and I don’t care enough to check) went to Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress. Deserved? Well, I don’t know. Again, she was fine, if not spectacular. And it surely must have been some kind of challenge – for an actor’s vanity, if nothing else – to act the same role over a twelve-year span. Many, many, many blogs for white feminists are praising her acceptance speech to the skies. Good for her for calling for the need to pay women the same wage as men, yeah, but she still managed to be incredibly exclusive and condescending. This post sums up the more objectionable points pretty well; this post shows that while yes, there are inexcusable disparities between what women and white men are paid, women of color are paid far less than even white women; men of color are often paid far less than either of their white counterparts as well; and trans people are all too often shut out even from holding a job, let alone getting paid. So yes, let’s talk about feminism, and let’s talk about equality, but please please please – let’s make this an intersectional movement.
– There has never been a time when the Academy wasn’t an obvious group of racist old coots, but man, they were REALLY showing their asses this year. The Guardian had a good rundown of all the rigoddamndiculousness of the ceremony itself – including, but not limited to: Neil Patrick Harris’s “best and whitest” stillborn joke, his puerile running “gag” involving a locked box and poor Octavia Spencer, his additional soi disant yuks about not being able to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor; and, in non-NPH news, noted wife-beater Sean Penn taking a shit all over Birdman‘s Best Picture win by making a crass comment about Iñárritu’s green card. What a fucking mess.
– NPH in general. It’s not that he’s untalented or incapable. It’s just that he’s insufferable. Please, please, leave him for the Tonys. That shrill persona is anathema to the film industry – save it for Broadway.
– And last but not least: yeah, I am still livid that Selma effectively got the shaft this year. Ava DuVernay has been extremely gracious and positive in every possible way, all throughout this awards season, but it has to sting. She knows – or she’d better know – that she’s made a great film. She’s made a film that is almost universally acclaimed. She’s made an important film. Her lead actor, David Oyelowo, gave one of the greatest performances of the year – maybe of his career. (I’m not even going to talk about the guy who did win Best Actor last night, for a movie that sounds like it’s basically inspiration porn.) Even if she’d been nominated for Best Director and he for Best Actor, and even if they hadn’t won, there still would have been doors opening for them that will not willingly open for either of them otherwise. Without those nominations, the Best Picture win was all the more important – and instead, it went to Birdman. Birdman was fine. I enjoyed it enough. It wasn’t the best picture of the year. Selma was. As I said yesterday, time will see to Selma‘s legacy, and that’s some comfort; but right now, it really is an epochal travesty that it won just a fluff award (richly deserved though it was). I believe enough in DuVernay’s and Oyelowo’s artistic gifts to know that they’ll do all right, despite all this, but it will be harder than it should be. That makes me angry, and I hope it makes you angry, too.